A cardiologist competing in a California half marathon has saved the lives of two runners with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) after watching one man collapse in front of him and another at the finish line after finishing the race .
Steven Lome had never seen anyone go into cardiac arrest during a street race and never expected to use his professional skills outside of work.
On November 13, while running the Monterey Bay Half Martin in California, Lome saved the lives of two men in their 50s and 60s.
He recounted the miraculous performance on Twitter, noting the “crazy odds” of being in the right place at the right time for both men.
“What is the probability of two people in a race going into cardiac arrest? What are the chances of both making a full recovery? (Typically, only 5 percent survive in-hospital cardiac arrest),” Lome wrote.
“I am very honored to work as a cardiologist and to use my training to benefit others, but I never expected these skills to be needed in this way outside of work.”
Steven Lome had never seen anyone go into cardiac arrest during a street race and never expected to use his professional skills outside of work
Greg Gonzales, 67, collapsed about 30 feet from Lome while Michael Heilemann, 56, of San Anselmo, Calif., collapsed at the finish line
Lome said he remembered the moment he saw Greg Gonzales, 67, of Vancouver, Wash., collapse about 30 feet in front of him in the third mile of the race.
He found that Gonzales wasn’t having a simple fainting spell or trip, but was going into cardiac arrest.
“Started CPR, people called 911. The defibrillator arrived in about 6 minutes and the rhythm was ventricular fibrillation (fatal arrhythmia),” he said.
“Shock and normal heart rhythm restored.”
The American Heart Association recommends hand-only CPR, in which the person performing chest compressions is instructed to push hard and quickly in the center of the patient’s chest.
Press to the beat of the Bee Gees’ song “Stayin’ Alive,” Lome told the Washington Post.
“That’s because that’s the right beat,” he said.
Gonzales woke up two to three minutes after being shocked by an automated external defibrillator (AED). He said the last thing he remembered from the race was accelerating a third mile up an incline.
But when he regained consciousness, he was in the back seat of an ambulance.
Lome said the odds of surviving cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting are only 5 percent. He commented that it was “crazy odds” that he was at the race.
He wrote about the heroic incident on Twitter, commenting that he was “honoured” to be a cardiologist
“I felt fine, apart from horrible chest pain, and they said the chest pain was from fractured ribs from the chest compressions,” Gonzales told the publication.
Lome continued the race and finished the half marathon in 2 hours, 30 minutes and 32 seconds.
But just as he crossed the finish line, Lome wrote that he saw another runner go down in front of him.
“Totally out. no pulse revival started. Within 1-2 minutes, a race volunteer brought an AED and placed the pads on his chest.
“The recommended shock, indicative of a fatal arrhythmia, has returned. One shock and I’ll restart chest compressions.
“He opens his eyes and says, ‘Why am I down here?’ then proceeds to stop his Strava on his watch and wants to get up.’
Michael Heilemann, 56, of San Anselmo, California, collapsed at the finish and was taken to the hospital after being revived.
Both Gonzales and Heilemann are runners with family histories of heart attacks or heart disease.
Gonzales’ father died of a heart attack at 58, and his brother had a heart attack at 59.
“So I was running and trying to keep my weight down and trying to eat the right foods,” he said.
Heilemann said his father, who died of heart disease three years ago, suffered cardiac arrest at the age of 56. His uncle and cousin also died of heart disease.
Lome added that “both had undiagnosed heart disease” and neither were “discharged from the hospital and have made a full recovery.”
Both men said they felt healthy before the race, but the fact that both survived can be attributed in part to the quick action of bystanders performing CPR and the availability of AEDs.
The incidents drew national attention and offer lessons and reminders for runners of all skill levels, Lome said after thanking local medical volunteers.
“Kudos to the medical volunteers at the race and the Big Sur Marathon Foundation for their efforts in organizing the event with numerous medical volunteers who were well trained and ready to serve,” he said.
“Being alert and ready to bring in an AED as soon as possible saved two lives. I still can’t believe this happened.
“That’s why we in America need to focus on heart disease prevention because the first symptom of heart disease in 1 in 3 people is sudden death, like those 2 people nearly succumbed to.”
Lome used the incident as an opportunity to promote health and exercise and is frequently seen on social media platforms promoting healthy living
Other posts on Lomes Twitter show the cardiologist trying to reduce the risk of serious illnesses, as seen in this post about colon cancer
Lome said that cutting out processed foods and focusing on unprocessed plant foods is vital to your health.
“Exercise is only 20 percent of heart health, diet is the most important part,” he added.
But living a healthy lifestyle “doesn’t make you immune to your risk factors,” said exercise cardiologist Jonathan Kim.
“In general, if you exercise a lot, eat a healthy diet, you will control your cholesterol and blood pressure,” he said.
“But there’s nothing you can do to control your genes.
“If you have such a strong family history that you tell your doctor about it, so if you get past 40, 50, it’s very important that you have the appropriate heart tests and evaluation by a preventive cardiologist.”
Cardiologists also emphasize the importance of listening to your body and understanding risk factors and possible warning signs.
About a year and a half ago, Gonzales said he felt a “tiny pinch of pain” on the left and right side of his chest.
The pain came and went.
“Five seconds here, 20 seconds here, 30 seconds here, maybe a minute every now and then,” he said.
“No more than probably five to ten times.”
Then, about eight months ago, Gonzales had a “weety inch” of pain in his left bicep.
He overlooked the pain and attributed it to other things like indigestion or sore muscles from lifting weights.
Gonzales said looking back, he should have seen a doctor.
Sudden cardiac arrest is uncommon in road racers, according to a 2012 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The incidence rate is 0.54 per 100,000 participants, with the rate being significantly higher in marathons than in half marathons.
But the majority of these cardiac arrest cases (71 percent) were fatal.
“A lot of people run marathons and do just fine,” Kim said.
“But if you’ve never done it before, you want to think about what your risk factors might be and make sure all of that has been addressed and controlled.”
There were about 5,000 finishers at the Monterey Bay Half Marathon, and both Gonzales and Heilemann said they plan to compete in and finish the Monterey Bay Half Marathon next year.